The United States women's national team continued its journey toward another gold medal with a 2-0 victory over New Zealand in the quarterfinals.
Team USA has won three out of the four gold medals since the event was added to the Olympics in 1996. The Americans have been a heavy favorite to win another gold in London, and nothing during their first four matches has changed that.
Abby Wambach opened the scoring in the 27th minute for the United States off a brilliant pass from Alex Morgan, who might have actually been attempting a goal. Sydney Leroux added a tally in the 87th minute to seal the deal.
Here's a complete recap of Friday's match, including Twitter reaction, player grades and more analysis as the Americans march on to the semifinals.
Ives Galarcep compared the play Morgan made to Wambach for the opening goal to something one of the world's best passers would make.
USA leads New Zealand, 1-0, in Olympic quarters. Alex Morgan's Xavi-like assist on Wambach's opener is the difference. The USWNT is buzzing— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) August 3, 2012
Brian Straus of Sporting News made an interesting comparison between two of the United States' all-time leading goal scorers after Wambach made it 1-0.
Fun stat: Mia Hamm, 2 goals in 19 WWC/Oly knockout round games. Abby Wambach, 10 goals in 13 WWC/Oly knockout round games.— Brian Straus (@BrianStraus) August 3, 2012
College basketball player Skylar Diggins expressed her concern for Morgan after a collision in the second half left the striker hobbled for a brief amount of time.
Oh no! I hope Alex Morgan is ok!— Skylar Diggins (@SkyDigg4) August 3, 2012
Having secured victory at St. James' Park, the American squad can sit back and wait to see which team it will play on Monday.
USA 2-0 New Zealand FT in Newcastle. The Americans are through to a semi-final against Great Britain or Canada on Monday #London2012— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) August 3, 2012
Former national team player Julie Foudy was impressed by Leroux's goal to ensure the United States would move on.
Grades for Key United States Players
Abby Wambach: A-
Wambach continues to amaze. At a point where many players watch their skills begin to diminish as they lose a step, Wambach hasn't missed a beat and is still one of the most important players on the United States roster.
She timed her move perfectly on the opening goal and worked her way into several other promising positions throughout the match. Unless she has a sudden drop in form, the Americans are going to be incredibly difficult to beat.
Alex Morgan: B+
While Morgan hasn't been scoring goals at the same rate fans are used to, she's still finding ways to make an impact, and that's the sign of a star. A lot of players can score, but making other key plays is what allows certain players to become elite.
She set up the first goal with great vision and used her speed to cause issues for the New Zealand defense all match. There was a brief injury scare in the second half, but she bounced back. That's good news, because Team USA can't afford to lose her.
Grades for Key New Zealand Players
Jenny Bindon: B
Playing goalkeeper against the United States is never an easy task. Bindon did everything possible to keep the game close and had no chance to stop Wambach's goal, which was perfectly placed and easily tapped in the net.
She wasn't forced to make many big saves, but she kept her team in the game for as long as she could. The loss definitely shouldn't fall on her shoulders. Sometimes even when a keeper does all they can, it's simply not enough.
Sarah Gregorius: C+
The Football Ferns were only able to generate a handful of scoring opportunities, and none of them really challenged American goalkeeper Hope Solo. Gregorius was one of the strikers who just couldn't generate any momentum.
It would have been a completely different game if Gregorius could have broken away from the American back line just once. Instead, she was kept under wraps for the entire match, and New Zealand finished without a goal.
Deciding Factor: American Depth
Give New Zealand credit for hanging tough in a match that many people were expecting to turn into a blowout given the United States' superior talent level. The Football Ferns just didn't have enough offensive firepower to cause problems, though.
The current American squad has depth at every position and has been playing together for quite some time. Even though the score remained close throughout the game, there was never a feeling that they were in any danger of getting upset.
Woman of the Match: Abby Wambach
Before the Olympics began, there was talk of the tournament serving as a passing of the torch from Wambach to Morgan in terms of the team's main attacking option. Up to this point, it hasn't materialized, as Wambach has continually led the way.
The 32-year-old striker has scored a goal in all four matches, illustrating that she's got plenty of good soccer left in her despite a long career. She was the most dangerous player on the field on Friday, as usual, and scored the game-winning goal.
The United States will take on the winner of the quarterfinal match between Great Britain and Canada in the semifinals. The Americans defeated Canada 2-1 in a June friendly and have always had success against their neighbors to the north.
Facing the home nation would obviously be a tricky test considering the opposition's inevitably large amount of fan support. That said, Team USA would still be favored in that match as it looks to secure a spot in the gold-medal match.
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